What is it like to work here [at SLA]?
Had I known ahead of time how hard this job was going to be I would have never have taken it! I am grateful I was so nieve. Six years ago I would have never believed that I could do what this job would ask of me. So, the first word that comes to mind about what it is like to work here is, hard. It is that kind of hard that feels not so good as you are in the trenches of doing tasks, but feels incredible when you look back on what you accomplished. Don't get me wrong, there are things that feel great during my days here, and there is a list too long to write about the things I enjoy.
SLA is a place where I am surrounded by learning every day. A place that takes care of anate human needs so real leaning can take off. This is a place to make mistakes and learn deep meaningful lessons that follow you though life on how do do things better, to be a better person and treat other people well. It is a place for family and sharing, it is a place for a reality check and a dose of humility.
This is mostly a place about people. We have faculty, staff, students, parents, community members, neighbors, and the cyber equivalent of all of those roles here at SLA. The people bring the learning, the creativity, the heartache, the triumphs, the wonder and the excitement. Our community is what makes this work.
Personally I am able to sustain working by making the school my life. I don't have a separation in my mind about work time and me time, it is all just me. This takes a very understanding family and an agreeable husband, but it has worked fine for us. I have a goal to be apart of the change in public education in Philadelphia and working here gets me closer to that goal.
What questions do you ask yourself on a regular basis?
How can I be better?
What needs to change?
What is good?
Who has facts?
How do you filter the internet?
How can I help?
What is positive about this?
What are the worst consequences of our best ideas?
How can I be the best Advisor?
What do I need to know to stay current?
How do I need to act to have people trust me?
How do I reach that child?
How do I explain this simply?
Am I too loud?
What is your name?
How do I bridge my leaning gaps/disabilities?
Why does this make me nervous/scared/shy/tense?
What do you want to do?
What do you want to eat?
What is healthy (mind/body/spirit)?
If you were unfettered by the public education system, what would you do differently?
Everything. I would like to see schools disappear and centers open up for masters and apprentices to come together. There should be leaning hubs in every community, run by the community by a Socratic methodology. Kids should be able to walk to these hubs, and walk home for lunch or to a community park. All members of the community should have a responsibility to the children to see that they are safe, cared for and learning to be citizens. Each child should be welcomed into local businesses to experience work and life in that occupation, to determine their affinity and create a comprehension for that business.
How do you build community in your classroom and school?
Community building at SLA is a very thoughtful and purposeful process and one that starts before students and teachers walk in the door for the formal school year. The incoming freshmen attend what we call Summer Institute (SI). This is a three day city adventure that kids spend with their advisor and other teachers they will have during the course of the year. Students attend SI and then walk in the door on the first day of school and they have already bonded. The school year is jumpstarted by that small amount of time we spend together. One of the main points of the three days is to also teach about our core values and our common rubric and introduce students to SLA's common language of learning.
Once school begins this common language of learning we have bonds us together. All teachers moving towards learning and speaking in the same language of leaning makes it easier for the students to follow and learn. All teachers are treated in the same mannor they are expected to treat their students. We are cared for, trusted, valued and respected by Administrators. In turn we use and are taugt to use the teachings of Nel Noddings from her book Ethic of Care and extend those teachings to our students.
I asked some students to respond to this question and here is what I got for a response:
"Community is created in SLA by mutual interests and respect. The most important part of the SLA community is respect, no matter your interests. SLA is unique in that students are free to do whatever they find interesting without the judgement that is present in most other school settings. Ms. Hull's room is no different; she stupports her students and creates a comfortable environment. The community within Ms. Hull's room untroubled and independent. Ms. Hull allows her students to grow and learn in what ever fashion suits them best. The community within Ms. Hull's room is a condensed version of all the most important values that make up SLA." - Kate Pepple
"By giving students opportunities to work outside of school, going to different places to learn, doing hands on stuff gives us a chance to know the community that we live in. To step outside of the safe environment and exploring, the outside community, we work with people that we never met before and that come from all over place and we learn to get along. We have to build trust and we have to step out of comfort zone. At the same time we will learn something new as the community brings it to us" - My Truong